Brooke Blurton: Former Bachelorette star on the loss of her mother | Stellar, Something To Talk About

After podcast host, author and youth worker Brooke Blurton lost her mum at age 11, she stepped in to become a matriarch to her four siblings.

In an interview with Stellar’s podcast Something To Talk About, Blurton – one of four women telling their stories in a special eight-page Mother’s Day cover feature – explains why it’s important to both recognise grief and celebrate her mum’s legacy as she marks what can be a difficult day.

Today is Mother’s Day, which for some people can be glorious, for some difficult, and for some a bit of both. You lost your mum when you were 11. Can I ask how you feel waking up on Mother’s Day?

It’s usually around anniversaries, Mother’s Day and big moments in my life that there’s a slight emptiness, like a feeling that can’t be filled. It brings up feelings that you’ll never have something that other people do, which is having their mum around in those moments and days. But there’s also a moment to celebrate their legacy.

Listen to the full interview with Brooke Blurton on Something To Talk About below:

The anniversary of your mum’s passing is May 18, just a few days after Mother’s Day this year. Does that amplify what you’ve just talked about?

It’s a pretty tough week. My mum’s passing also happened on my brother’s birthday. So we try to focus [on] a more positive approach with my brother’s birthday – we don’t want him to feel like it’s a sad day. There obviously are feelings that are sort of left unsaid. Coming into it, you can feel yourself getting a bit more sentimental and emotional – and reminiscing, which I love. I love being nostalgic. But I also love creating new traditions. My family are very cultural and sentimental, so we try to celebrate as much as we can when we’re together, especially around those times, because we all lost our mum. There are five of us [three brothers, Eden, Troy and Ronald Jerome, and sister, Kyandra] – four now, because my sister passed away a couple of years ago, and she was a mother of two. So we’re with them having to grieve her loss, as well. It’s tough. We do the best we can. Time goes on, and it gets a little bit easier in terms of your grieving process, but it doesn’t get easier when big things are happening in your life and you don’t have them there.

The power, I would hope, in talking about these things is in making people who might feel excluded or isolated today know that they are not alone. As a fellow motherless daughter, I found that the experience of navigating Mother’s Day without a mum became less uncommon over the years. Having lost your mum at 11, have you also felt as you’ve grown older, for want of a better word, like less of an anomaly?

I’ve felt a little bit more isolated and probably a little bit lonelier now, which I know is very unusual. But when I was younger, I had some motherly figures. I had my teachers. I had a stepmother, who was beautiful and sort of filled that role of being a mum. And now, in my adult life – moving away from home and breaking into my career and being so independent

– I probably feel more isolated around those times, especially because I think about motherhood and what that would look like … In huge moments in my career, where I feel like it’s such a big achievement, I wish my family were around me. It still doesn’t feel complete. That’s part of grieving. You have to learn to accept those moments, and they’re not easy.

Brooke Blurton Opens Up About Losing Her Mother

On the other side of that, and reflecting on my mum’s life – so much had happened in her life. My mum was only 34 when she died. This year, I’ll be 30. And to think how much I’ve achieved in 30 years to my mum’s life being cut so short at 34 also makes me more motivated to experience things for her, in a way, because she didn’t get to. That’s a beautiful part of reflecting and healing and grief. You unpack and explore that. I’ve been so lucky again to be surrounded by such beautiful women. I acknowledge that my mum and my grandmother were huge matriarchs in my family, and it wasn’t just my family who lost [them]; our community lost two really distinct and powerful women. So having to go through that, I kind of stepped into that role, of being a matriarch within my family life. There’s beauty in that: matriarchs sort of pass down those traditions and cultural elements and leadership. I feel like you have to acknowledge that even though a person has passed on, those things carry down through life.

I think that’s such a part of the story of anyone who’s lost a parent quite young – that heightened sense of mortality. I don’t know if “urgency” is the right word, but there’s that real need to get things done very quickly, because you’re not necessarily just doing it for you; you could be doing it for the mother and, in your case, also the grandmother who was taken too soon.

Urgency is a great word. Dedication, as well, and preservation. My brother [Eden] came on a podcast to talk about our family and he said, “You know, growing up you would always sit with Nan and Mum and listen to their stories.” For him to remember that about me brings me so much joy. We reminisce a lot about our mother. I don’t know if I’ve even spoken about this, but in our family the tradition is whoever births the first daughter … My sister-in-law is currently pregnant with our first niece of our family. So, first girl. The rule of thumb was that whoever had that first daughter would get my mother’s first name, which is Seanna. And my sister- in-law, who’s not Aboriginal, actually respected that it should go to me, so if I was to ever have a daughter, that name is kind of already in line. I’m my mother’s daughter, so having a daughter … I think she would probably end up being so much like my mum in some weird way. I can’t predict that, but I just have a feeling. It’s just an instinct, I guess. My family have given me that opportunity, so when I do have children, I look forward to that.

You mentioned absorbing some of that role of matriarch for your family and your community. I’m curious, as you’ve grown up, how that shifted. Was there a moment where it became: “OK, you’re just my big sister now – you don’t need to tell me what to do anymore”?

I’ve pushed and challenged them as a big sister, but also as a person they idolise and look up to. They’ve grown into amazing men and I couldn’t be any prouder, honestly. I think if my mum and grandmother were alive now, they would be proud of them equally, as much as they would be proud of me for getting and keeping us together. They’ve had to learn some hard truths, and I’ve let them, and stepped in when I felt I needed to. I can’t say I only ever played a motherly role; I also played devil’s advocate sometimes. I think now we have a perfect balance, where I feel like I’m kind of on the outside. I’m in Melbourne working on my career and enjoying that; they’re settling and doing the family things. I get massive FOMO … That’s why they’re over here at the moment. Because I was like, “Can you please come see me in Melbourne?”

You’re on today’s cover in a group shot of four high-profile Australian women talking about the myriad experiences of family and love and mother figures and then, of course, your experience of bereavement. What, if anything, do you think that representation might mean to younger generations?

Obviously these days were created to celebrate. To acknowledge, to reminisce, to remember. I think we generally do go straight to celebrating the mothers that are here, or the mothers that we know. But the four women on this cover all have different experiences around motherhood. That shows the nuance and complexities that there are. Sometimes these days aren’t solely focused on celebration. Sometimes they can exacerbate a lot of other feelings that we have. I think this cover expresses and executes that so beautifully.

To see Stellar’s special Mother’s Day cover story featuring Brooke Blurton, Sarah Davidson, Fifi Box and Ellie Gonsalves pick up a copy inside The Sunday Telegraph (NSW), Sunday Herald Sun (VIC), The Sunday Mail (QLD) and Sunday Mail (SA).

Listen to the full interview with Brooke Blurton on Something To Talk About below:

Originally published as Former Bachelorette star Brooke Blurton talks grief, healing and the mixed emotions of Mother’s Day

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